In the beginning, there was Silence. And suddenly Silence turned into this primal cry, this urgency. A burning desire. Of an enchantment the size of the explosion made of stars, planets, entire galaxies. And also continents and oceans, valleys and mountains, trees that speak softly when we stop to hear them. There also came to be many animals, of scales, fur and feather. And us humans, in between.
They say that even today the gods rule the days and nights, love and death. But if it was from Silence that all things emerged, it was from poetry that they drew their first breath. It was through poetry that we came to be many. Gods, spirits, ghosts, memories, shadows, stones, plants, animals, new and old. All, in a way, living beings. Thus each being was granted a unique and invincible melody, and a voice to sing it with. Thus was set in motion the great Song of the World. Even today we dance to its rhythm; some against their will, others consciously weaving that same dance so that everyone can join the circle.
Cosmologies like this one teach us the order of the world, through the filter of certain cultures, languages and tongues. They do it by pulling the chair for us to take our own place in that cosmic order. It may well be that for some this dynamic slips into a form of determinism. It is one of the possible extremes when working with a tool that is as aesthetic as it is ethic. But the druidry that I practice warns us: words are things. Aesthetics is an ethic. The story we tell about the formation of the Worlds is the continuous story of the growth of our inner world and how it interacts with the worlds around us. The gods to whom we attribute the order of things reflect the order we would give them if we were in command of all destinies.
The spirituality I practice recalls, as the ancient Celts did, that we are in total parity with all beings, born in original grace but also with an intrinsic duty. It was with full forthrightness, as if between equals, that the first humans to disembark on the Irish coast were said to have reached a draw with the gods of the place in the war for the dominion of the island. So the myths say. And so they reached a fair agreement to share their property: to the humans, an abode in the visible world; to the spirits of the place, a refuge in the valleys and rivers of Ireland. Both stories take place simultaneously, superimposed as in a well-tempered narrative.
With Nature as the thread running through them.
We inherited from the primordial desire the capacity to form new worlds in every gesture, in every speech. We are the fruit of poetry, and through it, we shall be poets until the end of all words. This is the meaning of every vocation.
Magicians and gardeners
And if the Song of the World places us on the same level as all other beings, capable of building up or damaging their surroundings and of living the consequences in their respective worlds, what are the boundaries of this “Nature” we are talking about?
One of the foundations of Druidry and, I suppose, earth spirituality in general consists of developing an increasingly just relationship with the earth that serves us as our home. But I think that this practice also invites us to make ourselves a Home, both for those around us and for our very own individuality.
In other words, a right relationship depends on the fundamental values of hospitality and reciprocity. We give because we receive constantly and in different ways. We learn to receive what is due to us so that we may give even more.
This essential care of the magician who is also a gardener is above all the most basic inclination of all beings. We exist in harmony, to the rhythm of the Oran Mór – which is as deadly as it is life-giving, it must be said —, as long as we do not unlearn it. There are so many factors that lead us to this forgetfulness: the integration into a disenchanted and disenchanted society; all the economic and productive structures that see the Earth and its people, either human or animal, as mere inexhaustible resources; the concrete and systematic discriminations that attack our sense of safety and personal worth; all of those doctrines that convince us that we were born in the elected ethnical group, the elected side of the border, the elected telling of History, according to the whims of the powers to be, while leaving spirituality stuck in customs; alas, the very doubts about the meaning of the Great Song.
What if we trusted? What if it actually made sense to us to embrace the archetype of the magician and gardener who care for the soul as well as the world around them? Then we would understand the struggles of those whose voice was drowned by the noise of some other players taking part in the Song of the World. By our own historical noise. We would have more urgency in preserving our soils, our waters, our air, our thoughts and emotions, the wills and dreams that we polluted at the funeral of our childhoods. We would have more attention to our body, that eternal neglected to whom we owe everything, from the small pleasures to the biggest vanities. We would finally fulfil the goal of solidarity, for the same Nature where the voices of myths are heard speaks to us through the diverse, rich and inviolable bodies of all creatures.
As for the Earth, it will proceed on its path, capable of regulating all imbalances and cleansing itself of any parasites, as it has always done. It is up to us here and now, at the intersection of our privileges and traumas, with more or less idyllic visits to stone circles and dense forests, to choose whether to in fact enter the compass, the everyday dance, or to remain on the fringe of life itself.
Turning the hunt into dance
We spend our lives hunting for the Deep Life, or being hunted by it, just as Taliesin is said to have gained awareness of Awen after being long pursued by Cerridwen. It seems inevitable that the ultimate clash will occur sooner or later, doesn’t it? It is valid to ask whether we should try to rush that encounter, whether it is indeed hastily self-motivated rather than an invitation. Personally, I prefer to think of druidic practice as a way of addressing that invitation to the Awen, to all beings, to the whole world, so that, imported over and over again into my awareness, they truly become important to me. So that I may turn the hunt into a dance in which both parties seduce and are seduced.
So that I might listen and understand the Great Song to the tune of empathy.
Many are the ways to enter this dance. There are those who focus on training their mindfulness, or on strengthening their ties with the beings of the various Worlds, however one understands their existence. We certainly won’t get very far without translating what we preach into more ethical and ecological lifestyles and also demanding from the powers that be their share — the majority actually — of responsibility. It is also important to know more about the history of who we were, far beyond the filter of official curricula; it is usually through the eyes of mythology that we remove the gag of those who are not in the books and challenge the limits of our own conscience and judgment. So that we finally question our complicit silences. So that we grow in love, knowing that it is not by merit that we produce the philosopher’s stone, but that it is by embracing our nature as common matter that the Fire which will one day beget us into a new existence shall emerge.
After all, if the Deep Life is indeed pursuing us, we will not be able to escape from it indefinitely.
This article was originally published in Ophiusa, the magazine of the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids for the Portuguese-speaking audience, in November 2017.